Tag Archive for theater

Haymon ’16, Morreale ’19 Discuss Theatermaking

miranda

Katherine Brewer Ball, assistant professor of theater, joined her former students Sam Morreale ’19 and Miranda Haymon ’16 over Zoom for a conversation about Haymon’s work and aspirations.

On March 18, the Center for the Arts presented “A Conversation with Theater Artist Miranda Haymon ’16.” Haymon, visiting instructor of theater, is Wesleyan’s inaugural Breaking New Ground Theater Artist-in-Residence, a new residency that brings early-career Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) theater artists to campus.

The discussion was led by Sam Morreale ’19. During the conversation, Haymon discussed artistic processes, Blackness, queerness, Brechtian analysis, the impacts of the pandemic on artmaking, and ideas for the future.

Haymon compared a theater performance to a “living document” in which the performance, audience, and actors are constantly changing.

“The work changes, and I change; we’re all changing. It’s that kind of symbiosis that I find really comforting actually. So I think a lot of my work is focused on the pure theatricality of the thing I love—when my actors are sweating, and they’re breathing hard, and they’re crying,  . . .  they’re laughing or they’re dancing. I’m obsessed with the human body; I’m obsessed with what it can do. I’m obsessed with what it can’t do. How can we make meaning from the human body?”

Haymon’s residency at Wesleyan is co-sponsored by the Theater Department, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Center for the Humanities, the African American Studies Department and the Center for African American Studies, and the Center for the Arts.

Haymon also has two related upcoming events:

  • A virtual Lunchtime Career Talk at noon, April 6, for Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff. Haymon will discuss their career post-Wesleyan as a freelance artist working in theater, television, film, and commercials, and how COVID-19 has shaped and changed that journey. RSVP is required.
  • Haymon’s upcoming radio play version of Pedro Pietri’s The Masses Are Asses (1974), on WESU Middletown 88.1FM at 10 p.m. on May 13 and May 20, 2021. The Masses Are Asses is an absurdist satire that exposes issues of social class, parodies the notion of the American Dream, and plays with political parody.
Miranda Haymon ’16

Haymon is a Princess Grace Award/Honoraria-winning director, writer, and curator. Recent projects include A Cakewalk (Garage Magazine & Gucci), Really, Really Gorgeous (The Tank), Everybody (Sarah Lawrence College), In the Penal Colony (Next Door @ New York Theatre Workshop, The Tank), and Mondo Tragic (National Black Theater). Haymon has held directing fellowships at Women’s Project (WP) Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Arena Stage.

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Sam Morreale ’19 is an advocate and facilitator for QTBIPOC+ (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color) storytellers and makers. Most of their work takes form through producing, directing, and consulting, particularly with a practice rooted in anti-racism and anti-oppression, transformative justice, healing, and harm reduction. Morreale’s recent work includes being a facilitator/curator for Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater Community Conversations, and a consultant for ART/NY, Center Theatre Group, and Boston Court Pasadena.

Miranda Haymon ’16

“You really have a great eye for taking up topics for conversation that are on our minds now, and also the existential crises of our generation, like climate change and technology and culture,” Morreale said to Haymon.

penal colony

Haymon began writing and directing In the Penal Colony at Wesleyan in 2014, and it premiered at The Tank in 2018. Adapted from Franz Kafka’s short story of the same name, Haymon’s play investigates the performance of power, patriarchy, and punishment. “Penal Colony felt incredibly generative, incredibly time-consuming,” Haymon said. “The notion of the penal colony is all about punishment. It’s about how we punish each other. If we should be done with it. If it should continue just because it’s part of history.”

haymon

Haymon shared a performance of their self as BB Brecht, a social media influencer named in honor of German theater playwright Berthold Brecht. BB Brecht uses he/him pronouns and focuses on the ideas of suffering, alienation, and desperation and what it means to be human. “I think that for me as an artist, BB Brecht [gives me an opportunity for] all of my interests to converge,” Haymon said. “I’m really eager to use every single tool I have, which is directing music theory, culture, social media, Instagram, my time in Berlin, my German studies major—converge under this roof of an opportunity for me as an artist to really express every single facet of my identity as an artist and frankly as a person.”

Torres Named 2021 Classical Directing Fellow for Old Globe

Edward Torres

Edward Torres

Edward Torres, assistant professor of the practice in theater, was named an Old Globe 2021 Classical Directing Fellow.

Torres has directed multiple productions at the San Diego, Calif.-based Old Globe, including Familiar, Native Gardens, and Water by the Spoonful, as well as two readings for the Powers New Voices Festivals. He recently directed a podcast version of Macbeth for NEXT Podcast and Play On Shakespeare. Torres directed the premiere of Kristoffer Diaz’s The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Victory Gardens Theater and Teatro Vista, which won two Jeff Awards. He’s also the artistic director emeritus at Teatro Vista.

Led by artistic director Barry Edelstein, the Old Globe 2021 cohort includes Torres, Meg DeBoard, Yolanda Marie Franklin, and Awoye Timpo.

“COVID-19 forced us to postpone our Classical Directing Fellowship last year, and I am truly delighted that we’ve found a way to gather these four talented directors virtually and resume this exciting work,” Edelstein said in a statement. “Meg, Yolanda, Awoye, and Eddie are deeply gifted, and I know our week together will be full of discovery, growth, and great art.”

The fellowship focuses on Shakespeare’s text, how it is put together, and how it works in the imaginations and voices of American actors.

At Wesleyan, Torres is teaching THEA 183: The Actor’s Experience; THEA 381: Directing II; THEA 427: Performance Practice A; THEA 431: Performance Practice B; and THEA 433: Performance Practice C this spring semester.

Theater Department Performs Socially-Distanced Fall Show, SLABBER

The Theater Department presented its fall show, SLABBER, Oct. 16–18 on the Center for the Arts green. The socially-distanced performances were open for groups of 48 audience members at a time.

Directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl, SLABBER introduced the audience to a group of enigmatic figures who have traveled to Wesleyan to diagnose their mysterious condition—one they have been suffering from for years. As they reveal their research, audience members are pulled deep into a fable of an outcast little girl, the history of Middletown, and a soap-cutting machine known only as the slabber.

This performance asked the Wesleyan community to consider notions of social and physical contamination, and whether it’s possible to come close to someone else without ever leaving your chair. Originally created by the interdisciplinary theater duo PearlDamour, the work was re-devised by the Wesleyan Student Ensemble, Here and Now, for the current socio-political moment.

Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

slabber

BIPOC Artists and Theatermakers Discuss the Challenges of Working in White Spaces

Inspired by August Wilson’s 1996 keynote address to the Theater Communications Group, Wesleyan's Theater Department presented a discussion titled "Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s)" on Sept. 25.

Inspired by August Wilson’s 1996 keynote address to the Theater Communications Group, Wesleyan’s Theater Department presented a discussion titled “Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s)” on Sept. 25.

The event, hosted by Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras (left) and Associate Professor of English Rashida Shaw McMahon (right) explored how Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists and theater-makers are engaging in conversations about the challenges of BIPOC theater in predominantly white spaces.

The event, hosted by Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras (left) and Associate Professor of English Rashida Shaw McMahon ’99 (right) explored how Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists and theater-makers are engaging in conversations about the challenges of BIPOC theater in predominantly white spaces. Oliveras is an actor, singer, and educator whose career spans theater, film, television, and voice-overs. On Broadway, she originated the role of Gina in Amélie, and also appeared in Machinal and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. McMahon, an author and researcher, is the author of The Black Circuit: Race, Performance, and Spectatorship in Black Popular Theatre (Routledge, March 2020). Her current research projects include an investigation into the hypervisibility of African American women characters within the plays of August Wilson.

Guest speakers and acclaimed actors Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park and You Can’t Take It With You on Broadway; Showtime’s The Chi) and Brandon Dirden (Martin Luther King, Jr. in All the Way starring Bryan Cranston and Jitney on Broadway; FX’s The Americans; Netflix’s The Get Down) were the event's key panelists. Guest speakers and acclaimed actors Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park and You Can’t Take It With You on Broadway; Showtime’s The Chi) and Brandon Dirden (Martin Luther King, Jr. in All the Way starring Bryan Cranston and Jitney on Broadway; FX’s The Americans; Netflix’s The Get Down) were the event's key panelists. 

Acclaimed actors Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park and You Can’t Take It With You on Broadway; Showtime’s The Chi) and Brandon Dirden (All the Way and Jitney on Broadway; FX’s The Americans; Netflix’s The Get Down) served as the event’s guest speakers. They also presented, as actors, scenes from four plays which served as anchoring points to engage the audience in direct conversation with the work, its themes, and its resonance and relevance today. “It’s important for you to see our work and see us perform, but our goal and our mission—the purpose of the work, the purpose of the art—is to educate and to inform,” Dickinson said. “All the work that I choose, it doesn’t matter if it’s TV or theater, I’m always hoping people will have a conversation at the end of it—there’s something that sparks, something uncomfortable, or something sticky. We’re interested in how the work affects society, how the art can change and mold how people are imagining the America we live in.”

The event featured excerpts from plays by Adrienne Kennedy, Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dominique Morriseau,

Dickinson and Dirden performed excerpts from plays by Adrienne Kennedy, Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dominique Morriseau, and spoke about them afterward.

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Dickinson and Dirden perform a scene from Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit ’67. The play depicts the race riots that ravaged Detroit in 1967. “This play in particular, we’ve been talking about it in white spaces. This is not a secretive conversation that we’ve kept to ourselves,” Dirden said. “Detroit 1967. The fact that that it isn’t taught in our schools. We were doomed to repeat it, and that was about police brutality.”

Co-sponsored by the Theater Department and the English Department.

The audience was encouraged to ask questions via chat throughout the event.

Watch the full event recording online here. And RSVP for the Theater Deparment’s next event, “A Conversation with Associate Professor Rashida Shaw McMahon” at 4 p.m. Oct. 19.

“Thank you again for all your support and presence,” Oliveras said. “The first of many conversations, as we collectively lean into the stickiness and beautiful potential change of this moment.”

Stanton, Hoggard Discuss Collaborative “Storied Places” during Faculty Luncheon Series

During the fall semester's first Faculty Luncheon Series on Sept. 23, Jay Hoggard '76, professor of music, and Nicole Stanton, provost, professor of dance, and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented a talk titled "Storied Places: A Collaborative Exploration of Migration and Memory" over Zoom. Hoggard and Stanton discussed their collaboration on the "Storied Places" project, which was performed in the Center for the Arts Theater in February 2020 as part of "New England Dance on Tour."

During the fall semester’s first Faculty Lunch Talk Series event on Sept. 23, Jay Hoggard ’76, professor of music, and Nicole Stanton, provost, professor of dance, and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented a talk titled “Storied Places: A Collaborative Exploration of Migration and Memory” on Zoom. Hoggard and Stanton discussed their ongoing “Storied Places” project, which was performed in the Center for the Arts Theater in February 2020.

Their project, "Storied Places" initially explored the stories of how their own families migrated from the south to the north. In time, the project evolved into science-fiction, where the characters envisioned themself in the future. 

“Storied Places” initially explored the stories of how the two collaborators’ own families migrated from the south to the north. In time, the project evolved into science-fiction, where the characters envisioned themself in the future.

nicole stanton

Stanton, a choreographer with a scholarly interest in the histories of the African Diaspora, and Hoggard, a vibraphonist and composer, began their artistic collaboration in 2014. “I’m very interested in the idea of collaboration as a composition practice, one that decenters a single voice and tries to create a space where multiple voices, multiple bodies, and multiple stories can thrive and exist in a community,” Stanton said.

Hoggard, who graduated from Wesleyan's World Music program in 1976, has recorded more than 20 CDs as a leader and more than 50 as a collaborator. He's served as director of the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra for more than 25 years. As a composer, Hoggard said Stanton's arrangements "really challenged to think outside the box." In most productions, very specific lyrics are tied to the emotions of a particular scene, "whereas, working with Nicole, there's something much more subtle than that. It's performance art. There's a symbolic part of modern and post-modern conceptions of choreography, dance, and movement, so ... it was an expansion [for me] in terms of how how to translate that into sound, or fragments of sound as opposed to structured pieces. It was more of a texture. Working with the Dance Department at Wesleyan and seeing the dancers, I got a better understanding of dance at Wes."

Hoggard, who graduated from Wesleyan’s World Music program in 1976, has recorded more than 20 CDs as a leader and more than 50 as a collaborator. He’s served as director of the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra for more than 25 years. As a composer, Hoggard said Stanton’s arrangements “really challenged me to think outside the box.” In most productions, very specific lyrics are tied to the emotions of a particular scene, “whereas, working with Nicole, there’s something much more subtle than that. It’s performance art. There’s a symbolic part of modern and post-modern conceptions of choreography, dance, and movement, so … it was an expansion [for me] in terms of how to translate that into sound, or fragments of sound, as opposed to structured pieces. It was more of a texture. Working with the Dance Department at Wesleyan and seeing the dancers, I got a better understanding of dance at Wes.”

All performers and musicians affiliated with "Storied Places" are Wesleyan faculty, alumni, or community members. The work collaboratively with one another throughout the entire performance process.  "It's not about me creating material and asking all the other bodies in the room to be exactly like my body," Stanton said. "We're all asking one another to try on our physical perspective ... so in that we are engaging our experience. We take our histories and expand them and put them into a context by learning and moving with other people with other bodies."

All performers and musicians affiliated with “Storied Places” are Wesleyan faculty, alumni, or community members, and/or independent artists from New York, Boston, and New Jersey. They work collaboratively with one another throughout the entire performance process. “It’s not about me creating material and asking all the other bodies in the room to be exactly like my body,” Stanton said. “We’re all asking one another to try on our physical perspective … so in that we are engaging our experience. We take our histories and expand them and put them into a context by learning and moving with other people, with other bodies.”

storied places

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78, top left, hosted the webinar and introduced Stanton and Hoggard. The Faculty Luncheon Series normally takes place at Daniel Family Commons over the lunch hour, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hosted online.

Watch a “Storied Places” video below:


Theater Department’s Interdisciplinary “Talk It Out” Focuses on Contagion and Pandemics

On Sept. 22, faculty, staff, and students gathered on Zoom for a "Talk It Out" that related to the Theater Department's upcoming production of SLABBER. Directed and created by Katie Pearl, assistant professor of theater, SLABBER is an open-air, interactive, socially distanced performance that brings viewers directly into the research and experiments of a group of people who are trying to identify a mysterious condition, known only as "slabber."

On Sept. 22, faculty, staff, and students gathered on Zoom for a “Talk It Out” that related to the Theater Department’s upcoming production of SLABBER. Directed and created by Katie Pearl, assistant professor of theater, SLABBER is an open-air, interactive, socially distanced performance that brings viewers directly into the research and experiments of a group of people who are trying to identify a mysterious condition, known only as “slabber.” The interdisciplinary conversation, titled “Dis/Ease: Contagion and Pandemics in Our World and Its Stories” was facilitated by Luna Mac-Williams ’22, pictured at top, center.

slabber

The SLABBER performance invites viewers to consider notions of social and physical contamination and asks whether it’s possible to come close to someone else across a great distance. During the “Talk It Out,” guest speakers Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology; and Anthony Hatch, associate professor of science in society, offered their insight on how pandemics and contagion play out in our world and in our stories. Participants discussed the topics of contagion and how concepts of “dirty/clean” are changing social constructs.

cohan

Cohan spoke about the idea of purification. “When biologists learned about the microbiome, we lost the idea that there was something pure about our bodies, and the more we can scrub ourselves of those nasty bacteria, the better our lives would be. And it turns out, now it’s the opposite,” he said. “How hard do you really want to scrub to make yourself pure? It would be a dangerous exercise, and nobody really knows how bad an idea that would be.”

hatch

Hatch, who worked as an HIV/AIDS educator in the 1990s and early 2000s, noted that scholars find repetitive themes with the emergence of new infectious epidemic and pandemic diseases. “It’s quite easy to vilify a particular group that you believe is responsible for what has happened. Now, we have the so-called ‘China virus,’ which is a racist ploy designed to take attention away from the lack of leadership and [terms of] providing testing, which should happen. We saw this in 1918. . . . This has happened with everything from AIDS to Zika, and now with the COVID-19 pandemic. . . . We’re asking, who’s bringing the infection, what’s the source of the infection, how do we prevent the infection?”

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“There’s a word I want to drop into the conversation and that is stigma,” Pearl said. “I’m thinking back to that moment, in the beginning [of the pandemic], when you wouldn’t want to put a mask on because you wouldn’t want people to think you were sick. The stigma around dirtiness is so huge, it keeps us from putting on that external marker of protection, to protect you from other people, and that is what has taken us down. It’s the stigma.”

The discussion was sponsored by the Creative Campus Initiative, Office of Academic Affairs and the Theater Department.

The discussion was sponsored by the Creative Campus Initiative, Office of Academic Affairs, and the Theater Department. Theater Department “Talk It Outs” occur at least once a semester, and serve as a way to invite the larger Wesleyan community into an interdisciplinary, open conversation around the issues the productions are framing. SLABBER will be performed Oct. 16–18 on the Center for the Arts green, and will be open to 48 audience members each night.

Reserve your spot for a SLABBER performance here.

Wesleyan Illuminates 2 Campus Buildings in Support of Restart Day of Action

92 theater

On Sept. 1, members of the Wesleyan community participated in the Red Alert Restart Day of Action by illuminating the Patricelli ’92 Theater and Center for the Arts Theater in red lights to show support and solidarity to colleagues in the entertainment industry. The industry has been shut down due to COVID-19 for more than four months. The purpose of the Restart Day of Action is to urge Congress to vote for the RESTART Act, led by senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Wesleyan alumnus Michael Bennet ’87 (D-Colo.), which would support an extension and expansion of benefits for independent contractors as part of a comprehensive pandemic relief package.

CFA theater

Wesleyan’s buildings were among 1,500 nationwide that were lit for the cause. Lights were provided by Northern Lights, a longtime vendor of Wesleyan University that has been hit particularly hard by the closing of theaters and canceling of events in Connecticut. (Photos by Robyn Joyce)

Theater Department Produces, Livestreams The Method Gun

method gun

The cast and crew of the Theater Department’s production of The Method Gun answered questions from the public following their livestreamed performance on May 2. Speaking (highlighted in yellow) is the show’s director Katie Pearl, assistant director of theater.

The shows must go on.

Rather than allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to force a final curtain call on theatrical productions, Wesleyan’s Theater Department pivoted to an online format. On May 1, and again on May 2, the department offered livestreamed performances of The Method Gun, featuring 10 student-actors.

A replay of the Saturday performance is available for viewing on The Method Gun @ Wes website.

After countless hours of line rehearsals, overcoming technical frustrations, and learning how to act and teach theater in a virtual world, show director and Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl breathed a sigh of relief during the Thursday night dress rehearsal.

“I almost can’t believe what we pulled off,” Pearl said. “It was super down-to-the-wire. We were cutting and rewriting scenes up until the last minute and wrestling with livestreaming software, but it all came together on Thursday. For the first time, it really worked. And all of us just wept afterwards. Because we’d made a thing. We’d transcended what felt like an impossible situation, and stayed committed to each other and the process to create something that really meant what we wanted it to mean.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

Pearl Creates MILTON, a Performance, Community Engagement Experience

miltonFrom Wisconsin to Massachusetts, Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl has visited five small American towns named Milton and developed a series of performances, each focused on (and performed in) a particular Milton.

Since 2012, Pearl and Lisa D’Amour—known collectively as PearlDamour—have led the performance and community engagement experiment.

In November 2019, PearlDamour released MILTON, a book that includes the full text of PearlDamour’s North Carolina performance, along with photos and excerpts from performances in Oregon and Massachusetts, and essay reflections on the process and practice of community-based art-making.

For more than 20 years, Obie-Award winning PearlDamour has pushed the boundaries of theatrical experience both inside and outside traditional theater spaces. PearlDamour’s work also includes the 8-hour performance installation How to Build a Forestinspired by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and devised for traditional theatre stages; and Lost in the Meadow, created for a 40-acre hillside at Longwood Botanical Gardens outside Philadelphia, exploring the short-sightedness of humans. They were honored with the Lee Reynolds Award in 2011 for How to Build a Forest, and with an Obie Award in 2003 for Nita and Zita.

This spring, Pearl is teaching the THEA 381 course Directing II.

Theater’s Francisco Directed International Productions, Interdisciplinary Workshops

William “Bill” Francisco, professor of theater, emeritus, died on Friday, Nov. 22,  at the age of 86.

Francisco received his BA from Amherst College in 1955, and his MFA in directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1958. He joined the Wesleyan faculty as an artist-in-residence in 1974 and as an associate professor in 1975. He taught theater here for 28 years until he retired in 2002.

Francisco was an active director throughout his career, working in theater, opera, television, and film. He directed productions off-Broadway, at Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, San Francisco Opera, and many other prominent theaters across the U.S. and Canada. At Wesleyan, in addition to directing productions, he taught courses in voice, acting, and directing. He also taught a number of interdisciplinary workshops, including a screenwriting workshop with Kit Reed.

His colleague, Gay Smith, professor of theater, emerita, said: “What a gifted director! His productions of Waiting for GodotWho’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, and Évita are emblazoned in my memory, as I’m sure they are in the memories of his students, his most renowned and grateful for Bill’s tutoring being Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

Jack Carr, professor of theater, emeritus, said: “When I think back on my time with Bill, I immediately recall how he invested himself totally, intellectually and emotionally, in every production he directed and every student he mentored… He was the most inventive, innovative and inspiring director with whom I have ever collaborated. Bill also was a most supportive and loyal colleague/friend. I miss him every day.”

Francisco is survived by his nephew, Aaron Francisco and Aaron’s wife, Jennifer.

Parker ’48, First Theater Major, Mentor to Hamilton Creators, Dies at 92

Gilbert Parker ’48, a retired literary agent who represented many of the country’s most influential playwrights over the span of nearly half a century, died Oct. 29, 2019. He was 92 and had served in the US Navy during World War II.

The first theater major at Wesleyan, he earned his degree with honors and distinction. Beginning his career at Liebling-Wood, Inc., as the assistant to Audrey Wood, the renowned agent who represented Tennessee Williams and other significant playwrights, Parker later joined the William Morris Agency, retiring in 2000.

Parker was noted as an adviser and mentor to many young and aspiring Wesleyan theater majors, and in his honor, Thomas Kail ’99 and Claire Labine (a former client of Parker’s and creator/head writer of Ryan’s Hope) created a Wesleyan scholarship in Parker’s name in 2012. In a note to those gathered in New York City to celebrate the Gilbert Parker Endowed Scholarship, President Michael S. Roth ’78 had observed, “During your sparkling 50-year career as an agent, the Wesleyan community took pride in your reflected glory. You made this relationship with our alma mater deeper and more personal, then and following your retirement, by closely mentoring Wesleyan graduates in the theater world like Thomas Kail ’99, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, John Buffalo Mailer ’00, and Bill Sherman ’02, among others. It’s wonderful that a group of your friends and protégés initiated this scholarship fund (and typical of your generosity, Gilbert, that you have contributed to it).”

A memorial service is planned for Parker on Feb. 3, 2020, in New York City. Those who would like more information, or would like to make a gift to the Gilbert Parker Endowed Scholarship Fund at Wesleyan University in celebration of his life, please contact Marcy Herlihy at mherlihy@wesleyan.edu; 860/685-2523; Wesleyan University Office of Advancement, 291 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457.